6 Reasons Why We Enjoy Listening to Sad Music

Shahram Heshmat wrote . . . . . . . . .

Sadness is a primary emotion that is expressed and perceived equally across cultures. Basic emotions (e.g., anger, happiness, and sadness) are innate and universal. Understanding basic emotions in music is very quick and does not require musical training. For instance, hearing a sad cello performance may induce a genuine state of sadness in a listener.

The most important musical cues for the expression of sadness in Western music include lower overall pitch, slower tempo, use of the minor mode, dull and dark timbres, and less energetic execution (Juslin, 2013). Sadness is generally seen as a negative emotion. But we tend to find it pleasurable in an aesthetic context (known as the paradox of enjoying sad music). What is the nature of the pleasure that people experience from listening to sad music? Accumulated evidence suggests that pleasure in response to sad music is related to a combination of the following factors (Eerola, et al., 2018; Sachs et al 2015).

1. Nostalgia. Sad music is a powerful trigger for nostalgic memories of foregone times. Such reflective revisiting of nostalgic memories may enhance the mood, especially if the memories are related to pivotal and meaningful moments in life (i.e., high school, or college). We enjoy the sweetness of these memories via vivid imaginations. There is some pleasure felt in recollecting the good times, as well as sadness from missing them.

2. Vicarious emotion. Music generates vicarious (substitute) emotions in listeners without real-life implications. Music helps to channel one’s frustration or purge (catharsis) negative emotions (anger and sadness). When we listen to sad music (or watch a sad film), we are disconnected from any real threat or danger that the music (or movie) represents. When we cry at the beauty of sad music, we experience a profound aspect of our emotional selves (Kawakami, et al., 2013).

3. Prolactin. At the biological level, sad music is linked to the hormone prolactin (associated with crying), a chemical that helps to curb grief (Huron, 2011). Sad music tricks the brain into engaging a normal, compensatory response, i.e., the release of prolactin. In the absence of a traumatic event, the body is left with a pleasurable mix of opiates with nowhere else to go. Prolactin produces feelings of calmness to counteract mental pain.

4. Empathy. Empathy plays a significant role in the enjoyment of sad music. Empathy can be broadly defined as a process by which we can come to understand and feel what another person is experiencing. Expressions of sadness and grief are likely to rouse support and help in others. Similarly, listening to sad music may evoke an empathic concern in those with a strong disposition to empathy.

5. Mood regulation. Sad music produces psychological benefits via mood regulation. Sad music enables the listener to disengage from distressing situations (breakup, death, etc.) and focus instead on the beauty of the music. Further, lyrics that resonate with the listener’s personal experience can give voice to feelings or experiences that one might not be able to express oneself.

6. An imaginary friend. Music has the ability to provide company and comfort. People tend to listen to sad music more often when they are in emotional distress or feeling lonely, or when they are in introspective moods. Sad music can be experienced as an imaginary friend who provides support and empathy after the experience of a social loss. The listeners enjoy the mere presence of a virtual person, represented by the music, who is in the same mood and can help cope with sad feelings.

In short, music has the proven ability to affect emotions, mood, memory, and attention. The emotional power of music is one of the main motivations of people who devote so much time, energy and money to it (Juslin, 2013). The ability of music to express emotions is also the reason for its application in music therapy. The knowledge about ways in which sad music becomes enjoyable can inform existing music therapy practices for mood disorders. The primary way by which music listening affects us is via changes in stress response. For example, in one study, participants were randomly assigned to either listen to music or take anti-anxiety drugs. The patients who listened to music had less anxiety and lower cortisol than people who took drugs. Music is arguably less expensive than drugs, is easier on the body, and doesn’t have side effects (Finn & Fancourt, 2018).

Source: Psychology Today

Advertisements

Study: Smiling Does Bring a Mood Boost

Here’s something to make you smile: Turning that frown upside down does make folks feel a little happier, researchers conclude.

While most of us might know this instinctively, academics have not always been sure.

“Conventional wisdom tells us that we can feel a little happier if we simply smile. Or that we can get ourselves in a more serious mood if we scowl,” said lead researcher Nicholas Coles, a graduate student in social psychology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“But psychologists have actually disagreed about this idea for over 100 years,” Coles noted in a school news release.

The controversy over the theory was heightened in 2016 when 17 teams of researchers weren’t able to replicate a well-known experiment that claimed to show that smiling can make people feel happier.

A much bigger pool of data was needed, Coles said.

“Some studies have not found evidence that facial expressions can influence emotional feelings,” he said. “But we can’t focus on the results of any one study. Psychologists have been testing this idea since the early 1970s, so we wanted to look at all the evidence.”

So Coles and his colleagues analyzed nearly 50 years of data from 138 studies that tried to determine whether facial expressions can affect people’s moods. The studies included more than 11,000 people worldwide.

The researchers’ conclusion: Facial expressions do have a small effect on feelings: Smiling makes people feel happier, scowling makes them feel angrier, and frowning makes them feel sadder.

The study was published in the journal Psychological Bulletin.

Coles stressed that no one should toss their antidepressants and just start grinning instead.

“We don’t think that people can smile their way to happiness,” he said. “But these findings are exciting because they provide a clue about how the mind and the body interact to shape our conscious experience of emotion. We still have a lot to learn about these facial feedback effects, but this meta-analysis put us a little closer to understanding how emotions work.”

Source: HealthDay


Today’s Comic

For Older Adults, Sense of Control Tied To Feeling Younger

Matt Shipman wrote . . . . . . . . .

A recent study on the psychology of aging finds that older adults feel younger when they feel that they have more control over their daily lives, regardless of stress or health concerns. However, stress and health – not a sense of control – play a significant role in how old younger adults feel.

“We recently found that there are things older adults can do to improve their feelings of control in their everyday lives,” says Shevaun Neupert, a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and co-author of a paper on the work. “Now this study highlights how those feelings of control influence perceptions of age. The more control older adults think they have, the younger they feel.”

For this study, researchers had 116 older adults (ages 60-90) and 107 younger adults (ages 18-36) fill out a daily survey for eight consecutive days. Study participants were asked questions aimed at assessing their daily stresses, physical health, sense of control over their daily lives, and how old they felt.

“Everyone’s sense of control fluctuates from day to day, or even over the course of a day – that’s normal,” Neupert says. “We found that when older adults felt more in control, they also felt younger. That was true even when accounting for stress and physical health.”

However, an individual’s sense of control had no bearing on self-perceptions of age for young adults. But stress and adverse changes in health did make young people feel older.

“This highlights the importance of having older adults retain some sense of autonomy,” Neupert says. “It’s not just a nice thing to do, it actually affects their well-being.”

The paper, “Feeling Young and in Control: Daily Control Beliefs are associated with Younger Subjective Ages,” is published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.

Source: North Carolina State University


Today’s Comic

Why Do I Confuse Left and Right?

Sebastian Ocklenburg wrote . . . . . . . . .

Left, right, what?

Almost anyone who has ever gone to a yoga class knows the situation: everyone eagerly follows the instructions of the yoga master, but in the end there are usually one or two people in class who stretch out the opposite arm or leg than everyone else – this has been me more than once!

Left-right confusions are actually quite frequent in everyday life and happen to lots of people whenever a task requires them to differentiate between the two sides, and particularly under time pressure, e.g., when giving someone directions to turn left or right while sitting in the passenger seat of a fast moving car.

So why do we confuse left and right all the time, while we have absolutely no problems to distinguish up from down or front from back? Turns out there might be two reasons for this!

On the one hand, differentiating between left and right is more complicated than differentiating between up and down, as what is left and what is right changes depending on the vantage point. Most of the time we distinguish left and right from our own perspective, but if we have to distinguish them from the perspective of a person facing us, the side of our left arm is the side of their right arm – confusing, isn’t it?

On the other hand, differentiating between left and right is more complicated than differentiating between up and down, as the distinction is completely arbitrary and there are no physical laws underlying it. You want to know what is up and what is down? Pick up an apple and then drop it. Where it lands is usually down. Left and right? Not so easy.

How many people confuse left and right more or less regularly?

A surprising number of people experience issues with telling left from right in their daily lives, so if this ever happens to you, you are in good company. The first larger study on the topic was published in the 1970s and investigated a sample of doctors and their spouses (Wolf, 1973). The result? About 8.8% of men and 17.5% of women stated that they frequently experienced left-right confusion in their daily lives. Some more recent studies estimate the numbers to be even higher. For example, an Australian study from 1990 found that about one third of people at least sometimes experienced frustration with everyday situations that involved the discrimination of left and right (McMonnies, 1990).

Aren’t left-right confusions mostly harmless? Why do scientists need to research them?

While most left-right confusions in everyday life are harmless, there are certain jobs in which you really do not want to confuse left and right – surgeon probably comes to mind first. Disturbingly, left-right confusions in a medical setting still happen more often than one might think. For example, in January 2000 two doctors at a hospital in South Wales accidentally removed the functioning left kidney instead of the right kidney, which in the end led to the patient’s death (Dyer, 2004).

While left-right differentiation in itself is not necessarily a complicated task, medical professionals are often under enormous time pressure, which could enhance the chance of left-right confusions and other errors. Indeed, medical students often report insecurities in telling left from right (Gormley et al., 2019).

Therefore, it has been advised to use side marking before surgery, identifying clearly for the surgeon whether the left or the right limb or organ should be removed. How important of a measure this is was shown by a 2014 study in eye surgeons from Israel (Pikkel et al., 2014). In this study, surgeons where asked to recognize the side of the operation by the patient’s name and by looking at the patient’s face from a 2-meter distance. Surgeons were able to correctly identify the side of the eye that was to be operated in only 73% of cases based on the patient’s name and in 83% of cases by looking at the patient’s face. The number or errors increased the longer the time between pre-operative examination and surgery was. Thus, if the doctors had indeed performed the surgery without the information from side markings on the patients, the probability for surgery on the wrong eye in at least in few patients was quite high.

What happens in the brain when we confuse left and right?

So why do we confuse left and right? Patient studies have shown that in particular the angular gyrus in the parietal lobe of the brain is highly important for discriminating between left and right. Damage in this brain area can lead to the so-called Gerstmann Syndrome (Gold et al., 1995), a rare neurological condition in which patients show four key syndromes:

  1. finger agnosia (inability to name or distinguish the fingers)
  2. agraphia (inability to write)
  3. acalculia (difficulties in performing even simple mathematical tasks)
  4. right-left confusion

Neuroscientists have used different techniques to investigate whether the angular gyrus also affects left-right confusion in healthy people and not only in patients with Gerstmann syndrome. For example, a group of scientists from the University of Durham in the UK used a technique called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to investigate the role of the angular gyrus for left-right confusion (Hirnstein et al., 2011). rTMS uses a magnetic coil to induce a small electric current that stimulates specific brain areas which can either inhibit or excite their function. The researchers found that after rTMS of the left angular gyrus, participants performed worse in left-right discrimination than in a control condition without rTMS. Thus, disturbing proper functioning of this brain area leads to more left-right confusion.

Some years later, a group of Norwegian scientists used a technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate left-right discrimination (Hjelmervik et al., 2015). fMRI uses magnetic resonance to identify brain areas that are active and therefore receive lots of oxygen from the blood during a given task. Participants had to lay in an fMRI scanner in a hospital and were looking at pictures of hands that pointed into various directions. Their task was to identify whether a hand was a left or a right hand. Analysis of the data revealed that there was indeed activation in the right angular gyrus and surrounding regions in the parietal lobe during this left-right discrimination task.

So what does the angular gyrus actually do? Turns out it seems to be quite the all-rounder. Studies have shown that is involved in language-related processes like sematic processing and word reading, but also in memory and spatial cognition (Seghier, 2013). It seems to work like a cross-modal hub that integrates these different processes to guide our actions. This also explains why it is so relevant for left-right confusion: differentiating left and right requires verbal processes (the words left and right need to be applied to objects in the environment), memory (you have to remember which is left and which is right), and spatial processing (you have to process whether objects around you are on the left or the right side). If the integration of these different processes fails, a left-right confusion might happen.

What can I do against left-right confusions?

Left-right confusions seem to be happen more often when we are under stress or time pressure, so slowing down a bit is probably a good idea in order to avoid making left-right confusions. Also, when you are in doubt which side is which, an old trick is to make an L shape with the thumb and the index finger of each hand. The one that actually looks like the letter L is the left hand!

Source : Psychology Today

Which of the 4 Personality Types Are You?

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Modern psychology largely rejects the notion that people can be pigeonholed into personality types.

But that assumption is being challenged by a major new study, which discovered at least four distinct personality types into which people tend to cluster.

Researchers discovered these clusters by running the results of 1.5 million personality inventory questionnaires through a computer, said lead researcher Martin Gerlach. He is a doctoral student at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill.

The questionnaires assessed each person on five well-established personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

Gerlach and his team fed these into the computer to see if people would tend to cluster around similar levels of shared personality traits.

The investigators found at least four clusters, which they compared to “lumps in the batter,” Gerlach said.

The first is the “Average” personality type, which is characterized by average scores in all traits, the researchers said.

The other three clusters are roughly organized along the traits of neuroticism (level of emotional stability) and extraversion (the quality of being outgoing):

  • “Reserved” personalities are emotionally stable but not particularly extraverted. They also are somewhat agreeable and conscientious.
  • “Self-Centered” personalities score high in extraversion and below average in openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. “It’s not very nice to interact with these kinds of people,” Gerlach said.
  • “Role Models” are low in neuroticism and high in all the other traits. They are agreeable, thoughtful and well-organized.

These clusters were found thanks to four large data sets comprising more than a million people, obtained from different studies performed around the world, Gerlach noted.

“It was previously unthinkable to obtain this amount of data,” Gerlach said.

Not everyone will fall into one of these personality types, he added, and some people may even fall somewhere in the middle between two of them.

Your specific personality type is not set in stone, either, he explained.

For example, researchers speculate that the younger you are, the more likely you will be to fall within the Self-Centered category, particularly if you’re a teenage boy, Gerlach said.

But with age and seasoning, a good number of these people could evolve into Role Models.

“We would expect people to move from one personality type to another personality type,” Gerlach said. “The chances are that older people are more likely to be close to the Role Model personality type. You could describe these people as ‘nice’ people.”

The discovery of these clusters runs counter to much of current psychological theory, which has concluded that personality categories don’t exist, the study authors said.

Senior researcher Luis Nunes Amaral is a professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern Engineering. “Personality types only existed in self-help literature, and did not have a place in scientific journals. Now, we think this will change because of this study,” he said in a university news release.

These clusters could help people predict how well you’ll succeed in a given job, or your vulnerability to certain mental or emotional disorders, Gerlach said.

Psychologists have greeted that notion — and these new findings — with some skepticism, however.

James Maddux, a professor emeritus of psychology with George Mason University, said, “I have no qualms about the methodology and statistics, but I have serious doubts about the clinical utility of yet another instrument that categorizes people into types.” Maddux was not involved with the study.

“For 40 years or more, clinical psychology has been moving away from using the assessment of personality traits and types to inform treatment and increasingly toward using assessments of people’s problematic thoughts, feelings and behaviors as they occur in specific problematic situations, which is the essence of cognitive-behavioral therapy,” Maddux said.

“I doubt that many clinical psychology doctoral programs in the U.S. or Canada would add this instrument to their course or courses on psychological assessment,” he added.

But New York City psychiatrist Dr. Timothy Sullivan said, “Given the numbers of subjects they assessed, it suggests we need take this seriously. There is something meaningful here.”

However, it’s not clear how useful these categories will be in dealing with people’s mental health issues, said Sullivan, chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Staten Island University Hospital.

“I think the question for us in psychiatry is, is it meaningful to us clinically?” Sullivan said. “Does it help us to think about how we might help people who have problems coping in life? In that regard, we would need to play around with these categories and see whether or not they represent something meaningful in a clinical setting.”

The study was published in the journal Nature Human Behavior.

Source: HealthDay